The Varsity Blues men’s soccer team, defending OUA champions, fell to a close opening-day defeat to the Carleton Ravens at Varsity Stadium Sunday.
The 3–2 scoreline reflects the closeness of a game that saw each team dominate for periods of an ill-tempered contest.
Carleton Raven’s striker Caki Simrooglu opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a charge on goal that forced Blues goalkeeper John Smits into an uncharacteristic mistake. Captain and goal scorer Darragh McGee admitted that the team “started a little sloppy. [Smits has] been an incredible servant for us, I’ve never seen him make a mistake in three years and today was his day to make a mistake. You can’t account for that.”
Smits recovered well from his error, making a number of impressive saves to keep the Blues in the game, including racing Simrooglu to the ball in the 33rd minute to clear.
The Ravens went into the first half on top by that solitary goal, and Simrooglu doubled his tally in the 59th minute after an assist that had suspicions of handball about it from Ravens’ midfielder Joey Kewin.
McGee, playing a real captain’s role, reduced the deficit with a 25-yard screamer of a goal in the 64th minute. Of the goal, McGee said, “I took [the ball] on my right foot, and didn’t really think about it, just instinctively hit it. [Then] I just remember it hitting the top corner.”
Carleton’s two-goal advantage was soon restored when Ravens’ midfielder Samuel McHugh scored a penalty in the 68th minute. McHugh’s scooped shot to the left of the goal evaded ‘keeper Smits, who jumped in the opposite direction.
The Blues hadn’t given up, though, and the sending off of Raven’s defender Michael Calof for a second yellow card helped their cause. Rookie Blues striker Jermaine Burrell scored soon after, in the 76th minute from a skillful cut-back by defender Michael Braithwaite. Burell said of the game, “it’s my first OUA game, I didn’t expect to even start so it felt pretty good to stay on the whole game [and score].”
An equalizing goal eluded the Blues, and despite attack after attack, the score finished with a one-goal advantage to the Ravens. McGee was naturally disappointed, but said, “when you go behind against Carleton, they just keep bombarding you, and one more mistake when you’re fighting to get yourself back in the game, and they’ve got you two down. But I’ve got to commend our boys for sticking to it.”
Indeed, the game saw a lot of tempers flaring. McGee says of the Ravens, “Carleton are a team that play a certain way… they’re very direct, they play a very physical game, they don’t try to get the ball down. We [knew] that before the game, we knew exactly what they were going to give us [and] we battled with them.”